Creating Cultural Correctgness: Abstract
- Japanese Tradition in Digital Art -

Machiko Kusahara

As the web technology becomes more sophisticated, the notion of identity in the digital community might become more complicated. We have avatars and agents in our digital community. As far as they represent the users or work for someone for some specific services, it would remain in the realm of traditional concept of identity in the West. But there can be a different approach emerging from a differnt cultural background.

In "Post Pet", a best selling email software by a Japanese artist Kazuhiko Hachiya and distributed by Sony Computer, a virtual pet which is supposed to deliver email for the user has its own life and will. It might not be available when the user needs it, while it might start writing and delivering email on its own. After they dissappear from the scrreen as pets live shorter life, they enjoy after-life in their paradise where the former owners can visit. The basic idea is totally different from that of avatar or agent.

What underlies is the reflection of Japanese traditional idea of self and identity onto cyberspace. Hachiya's other works are more closely related to the issue which is relevant to the cultural attitude toward ownership and originality. Absense of critical boundary between human beings and animals that can be seen in Post Pet is also closely related to the notion of identity as human being. This also explains why in typical Japanese animation titles a human character and a machine would merge, and why a-life games are developed in Japan.

RENGA, a web-based art form conceived and developed by artists Toshihiro Anzai and Rieko Nakamura is another example of rediscovering a Japanese literatural tradition in a digital medium. The issue of originality and copyright is reversed from the poing of view of Western traditional belief in art. On the other hand, RENGA is one of the similar projects that can be seen over the web. It is a part of the changing notion of human beings and its image, also related to the notion of life.

Analysis on Japanese web projects and related art/entertainment projects would gives an interesting aspect for the nature of digital community .

(Abstract for CAA Conference 99)